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November 15, 2023

Second Samuel Part 8

We’re in the middle of a true story about someone who rejected the Lord’s anointed (it runs from Chaps 15-19).


Second Samuel



We’re in the middle of a true story about someone who rejected the Lord’s anointed (it runs from Chaps 15-19). It’s the story of Absalom’s rebellion against his father King David. So, by way of review, who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? What makes the good guys good and what makes the bad guys bad? Simply this – the good guys are the Lord’s anointed king and those who are loyal to him, honor him, and follow him. The bad guys are those who reject the Lord’s anointed.

David is the rightfully anointed king of Israel. He is God’s chosen leader – a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14). He has been placed in his position as king by God. On the other hand you have Absalom. He’s the wanna-be king who has schemed a way to seize the throne from his father. Absalom’s desire is evil. He wants to subvert God’s kingdom and God’s king. David, with all of his flaws, is still God’s chosen and anointed king, not Absalom.

Two parallel lines run thru the Bible from Genesis 3 thru the O.T., thru the cross and all the way thru Revelation. Let’s just call these two lines the top line and the bottom line. The top line represents God, God’s will, God’s way, God’s desires, His perfect plan. The bottom line represents Satan, his lies, his schemes, his continual efforts to counteract God and His desires, to undermine God’s plans. And these two lines can be clearly seen in the story of Absalom’s rebellion against David. Though Absalom’s treasonous actions are against King David, in a much larger sense his actions are in direct opposition to God.

As we come to part 2 of our lesson Absalom appears to be winning. King David, his family and his faithful followers have just left Jerusalem and are heading east across the Jordan River toward the wilderness. Meanwhile Absalom is entering Jerusalem and is being hailed by the people as their new king. The bad guys led by Absalom appear to be winning.

READ 2 Samuel 16:15

Ahithophel is David’s trusted advisor, his secretary of state. He’s highly esteemed. In fact later, in v 23 of this chapter, we read that “the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God…” But Ahithophel has betrayed David and has gone over to Absalom’s side. When David first received word about Ahithophel’s betrayal he was saddened by it and David prayed to God about the situation. He took his burden to the Lord. David prayed, short and to the point: “O Lord, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.” (2 Sam 15:31) David, knowing the wisdom of Ahithophel, prays is that Absalom will not follow it.

READ 2 Samuel 16:16

Hushai the Archite is King David’s loyal friend. He’s been commissioned by David as his informant. Hushai agreed to go back to Jerusalem and to plant himself in Absalom’s inner circle of influence. He will pretend to be loyal to Absalom while the whole time keeping David informed of Absalom’s plans. So Hushai is a good guy. He’s on David’s side and, therefore, on God’s side. Here in this verse we see him greeting Absalom in Jerusalem for the first time. He is trying to sell Absalom on the idea that he has left David and come over to Absalom’s side, just like Ahithophel had done previously. So Hushai greets Absalom exuberantly, “Long live the king!”

But Absalom’s a little suspicious… READ 2 Samuel 16:17-19

Hushai is quite the actor. He plays the part of a traitor perfectly. In these verses Hushai identifies a basic flaw in Absalom’s character which we touched on last week – his vanity. You can see him stroking Absalom’s ego. Convinced, Absalom allows Hushai into his inner circle.

Finally! Absalom is right where he always dreamed of being. He is the king of Israel! The capital city of Jerusalem is his. The palace is his. All that once belonged to David is his. The wise secretary of state is on his side. The old king has left. Absalom is in control. So what will be his first act as king? “What shall I do now that I am king? Oh, I know. I’ll ask Ahithophel. He knows everything.”

READ 2 Samuel 16:20-23

Ahithophel tells Absalom, “Display publicly your power over David.” And he comes up with the idea of violating King David’s concubines, having sex with them out in the open for all to see. Ahithophel says, “The people who are for you and against David will be strengthened by your display of power over David’s harem. By doing this there can be no possible way of reconciliation – you will make yourself a stench to your father,” v 21. So Absalom follows Ahithophel’s advice. Absalom is NOT a good guy. And his reign as king will be a brief one. Chapter 17…

When Ahithophel sees that Absalom has followed his advice he feels empowered and important. So he says to Absalom, “I’ve got another plan.”

READ 2 Samuel 17:1-4

Ahithophel’s plan is to strike while the iron is hot. Finish David off immediately. Hit him while he is down, weak, and discouraged. Form an army, 12000 men, pursue David and kill him before he has a chance to reach safety and build an army. Quick action will eliminate David, avert a civil war and reunite the kingdom behind Absalom. From a pure military standpoint Ahithophel’s advice is sound.

Had Absalom followed Ahithophel’s advice Second Samuel would have most likely ended with David’s death in Chapter 17 and the narrative of the Old Testament would have been completely different. But he doesn’t. And why not? Remember David’s prayer? “O Lord, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.” Well, God is about to honor David’s prayer.

READ 2 Samuel 17:5-7

Hushai says, “Normally Ahithophel gives good advice, but this time what he’s proposing is NOT good. This is what you should do instead…” And Hushai lays out his counter plan.

For the sake of time let me summarize Hushai’s plan, v 8-13. Absalom is to assemble a mighty force from across the entire nation of Israel, which Absalom himself will command. This great army will then engage and rout David’s much smaller forces. A great military victory will bring glory and prestige to Absalom. Again, Hushai is appealing to Absalom’s huge ego. Absalom will lead the troops into battle himself. He’ll be the great military hero. In reality Absalom has no experience as a military leader so this will prove to be a major blunder. And Hushai’s plan buys some valuable time for David which will then allow him to build up and organize his army.

READ 2 Samuel 17:14

This verse shows God’s sovereignty, how He intervenes in the affairs of evil men to disrupt their evil plans. Everyone appears to be doing what they want to do. But hidden behind it all is the reality that God is doing what HE wants to do.

In the Bible we have a lot of instructions and doctrine. But God’s word also is filled with narrative, real life examples (like this one) that show what God’s will looks like, the rewards gained by those who follow God and His plan, the devastating results for those who reject God and don’t follow His will. From the beginning Absalom, going up against the Lord’s anointed, just doesn’t stand a chance!

Absalom implements Hushai’s plan. David spy network goes into action and informs David of Absalom’s decision. V 15-22 give an account of how God protects His spies from Absalom’s secret service agents (who had been told of their activity). It’s similar to the story in Joshua where God protected the spies in Jericho with Rahab’s help. Here God protects the spies with the help of another woman who is unnamed.

Hushai’s plan buys David the time he needs to mobilize his forces against Absalom (v 24-29). From a military standpoint Ahithophel’s plan makes much better sense than Hushai’s plan. But God confounds Absalom by turning Ahithophel’s wise advice into foolishness. Thus, God honors David’s prayer.

When Absalom ignores Ahithophel’s counsel, he goes and hangs himself (v 23). But don’t feel too sorry for Ahithophel. His betrayal of David parallels Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. Both were friends of the Lord’s anointed, both had been faithful for a while, both betrayed them and both ended up killing themselves in the same way.

The battle itself takes place in Ch 18…

READ 2 Samuel 18:1-5

Notice David’s preoccupation with Absalom. He tells his 3 military commanders, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom,” v 5. He apparently also told them “For my sake protect the young man Absalom,” v 12. David seems to view Absalom as his young son who is just a misguided rebel. But Absalom is more than that. He’s evil and dangerous. And we just read in Chapter 17 that he wants to kill his father. Make no mistake about it. Absalom is an antichrist type of a figure. We see them throughout the Bible and in human history. He is an enemy of God. He has rejected the Lord’s anointed. Absalom is on that bottom line, guided by Satan’s lie, which I talked about earlier. He has amassed an enormous army and is out in front leading the troops. His goal is to kill David and wipe out his army.

 READ 2 Samuel 18:6-8

Absalom’s army is soundly defeated by David’s forces. There’s a great loss of life, 20000 of Absalom’s men are killed. Amazingly more men die as a result of the density of the trees and the rugged terrain than die by the sword. Again here we see divine intervention.

READ 2 Samuel 18:9

In the chaos of the battle, in the midst of the dense forest Absalom gets separated from his men. The next thing he knows he’s all by himself and he runs into some of David’s men. He rides his mule as fast as he can to get away from them and that’s when Absalom has his famous hair raising incident! He somehow gets hung up in the branches – the Bible says that his head got caught in the branches. Meanwhile his mule just keeps right on going. He is suspended between heaven and earth. He’s utterly helpless. He’s humiliated. He says nothing. He does nothing. There is really nothing he can do except wait.

Well one of David’s soldiers spots Absalom hanging there and goes and tells his commanding officer, Joab. Here’s the exchange between Joab and the soldier, v 10-13---

Joab: “Why didn’t you kill him?”

Soldier: “You heard what King David said. He said not to harm Absalom.”

Joab: “Well I would have given you 10 pieces of silver and a belt if you had killed him.”

Soldier: “Maybe so, but I would eventually be standing before the king and he would have me killed just like he had those other two guys killed!” I love the jab he throws at Joab – “and you yourself would have stood aloof.” He knows Joab well enough to know that Joab would not have stood up for him and defended his actions before David.

So the soldier doesn’t touch Absalom. Joab goes and finishes Absalom off himself, v 14-15. It’s a gruesome scene. Joab takes three javelins, long sharp spears, and thrusts them into the heart of Absalom. And if Absalom wasn’t dead at that point then 10 of Joab’s armor bearers surround him and finish him off. They bury Absalom under a pile of stones. The end.

Absalom’s reign as king of Israel comes to an end just as quickly as it began. By the way, this is the end result for all rebels who rise up against God. For those who reject the Lord’s anointed, who strive against God, who resist Him, it will not end well for!

Here’s the question for you. Was Joab right in doing what he did to Absalom? Before you answer, remember that Absalom is the enemy of God who subverted God’s kingdom and who wanted to kill God’s anointed king. I believe that Joab was right to do what he did. And he’ll later defend his actions to King David. Here Joab is decisive, he loves his country and is loyal to his king. He removes the cloud of threat. He knows what must be done to preserve the nation. Listen, Absalom’s survival would be cause for future unrest. The kingdom would still be divided. And there would probably be more loss of life, more warfare down the road. He had to die.

Well the focus now shifts back to David. He’s back at his home base  and awaiting news from the battle. Suddenly here comes a messenger running, oh wait, here comes a second messenger.

READ 2 Samuel 18:28-30

The first messenger arrives and gives his report to the king. “All is well.” Notice David’s question. As the king, the leader of an army who has just fought a battle, what normally is your primary concern? “How are the troops? Did we sustain many casualties?” But that is not what David asks. “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” David is still in denial about who Absalom really is (or was) and what he represents.

READ 2 Samuel 18:31-32

The Cushite messenger now arrives and gives his report – “Good news!” David again asks the wrong question. The Cushite does not come out and say Absalom is dead but David understands by the language he uses that Absalom is dead. The Cushite correctly labels Absalom as an enemy of David’s and as evil. That’s what Absalom is – or was. And how does David react?

READ 2 Samuel 18:33

David is overcome by grief because of the loss of his son. Normally we would say that this is understandable. But this is not a normal situation. Absalom isn’t just some misguided young boy. He is a full grown man who has committed a serious act of treason. He has rejected the Lord’s anointed king and thereby rejected God. He has tried to kill David. Under the Mosaic Law Absalom deserves death for his actions. I’m sorry, but David here is preoccupied with his own personal loss rather than the welfare of his troops (who risked their lives for him out on the battlefield); and rather than what is in the best interests of his nation. David seems to be forgetting his place and his duty as the king. He’s consumed with his own feelings of grief. And this spills over into Chapter 19

So finally Joab goes in and talks to David…

READ 2 Samuel 19:5-7

Joab is right. “Think about your own men. Honor them!” He points out to David the reality of the situation, the bigger picture.

With that David gathers himself, resumes his role as king, returns to Jerusalem (that will be next week’s lesson).

There are several basic lessons that we learn from Chapters 13-19. First, God’s judgment on David’s sin. Yes, David was forgiven and restored. But there was still divine judgment on him and his family for what he had done. Throughout the whole story of Absalom’s rebellion I’ve said that it’s not about David being a bad father, though in many ways he was. It was really more about God’s judgment on David for his sins back in Chapter 11. Three deaths in David’s family are directly linked to David’s sin – (1) the newborn baby produced by his adultery with Bathsheba, (2) Amnon his oldest and now (3) Absalom. All a result of God’s judgment on David.

And let’s not forget about Tamar and how her life was ruined nor about those 20000 troops who died as a result of a civil war after Absalom’s rebellion. It just goes on and on! So the second lesson we can take away from all of this is that the tragic results of David’s sin are widespread on so many levels. I refer to this as “the pervasiveness of sin.” Our sin does not just impact us, but it affects many others.

Third, is that you do not want to reject the Lord’s anointed – for us the Lord’s anointed, the Messiah, the Anointed One is God’s own dear Son, Jesus. Reject King Jesus and it will not end well for you.

Well, let me wrap up this lesson on a positive note. In many ways David’s rejection as king foreshadows the rejection of Jesus. Here’s what you need to know – God’s kingdom WILL triumph. In the Lord’s Prayer, the model prayer, we pray these words (Matt 6): “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as in heaven… For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” David was rejected as king of Israel, he left for a time while a wanna-be king ruled. But David later returned to reign as as the rightful king.

Our King, the Lord Jesus, was also rejected by His people. In fact they crucified Him. He died on a cross, but He rose again and ascended back to the Father. Two angels dressed in white robes in the form of men announce a message of hope to His disciples (Acts 11): “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Jesus is coming back! For a while the prince of this world, Satan and those who follow his lies, appear to be in charge and winning. But make no mistake – Jesus WILL return to rule and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19). And when He does we will be there with Him and He will put all of His enemies under His feet.

In the meantime, it’s not our job to defeat God’s enemies. He’ll do that in due time. Instead we are to be His kingdom ambassadors, His representatives in our world. For now His kingdom is in us, in His church. We are His voice countering the devil’s arguments and wrong ideas and plethora of false doctrines; to warn people of impending judgment; to speak the truth, the wonderful gospel message, in love. Jesus WILL return. Do you, Christian, really believe that? Do you believe that He does win in the end no matter how bleak things may appear today? Trust the promises from His holy word! Trust your King. Trust Jesus.



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